Memorizing Poems

Rote memorization, particularly the memorization of classic poetry was a staple in the early20th century school system.  While the idea at the time was that a student who contained multutdes of classic literature was amore cultured individual, it has been shown that memorizing poems increased literacy, command of language and cognitive development, particularly memorization capability.

Poems included in Committed to Memory by John Holland, a compilation of poems often memorized by school children in the early 20th century. (Click on the poems to see them in their entirety.)

At the round earths imagin'd corners by John Donne
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
When I Consider How My Light Is Spent by John Milton
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, Sonnet #18 by William Shakespeare
Not marble nor the guilded monuments, Sonnet #55 by William Shakespeare
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Composed upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

The Spacious Firmament on high by Joseph Addison
From Milton: And did those feet by William Blake
The Tyger by William Blake
Afton Water by Robert Burns
A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns
So we'll go no more a roving by Lord Byron
Ask me no more by Thomas Carew
Break of Day by John Donne
When Malindy Sings by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Love (III) by George Herbert
Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes
To Celia by Ben Jonson
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace
The Mower's Song by Andrew Marvell
A Litany in Time of Plague by Thomas Nashe
To Helen by Edgar Allan Poe
Coronach by Sir Walter Scott
Blow, blow, thou winter wind by William Shakespeare
When that I was and a little tiny boy by William Shakespeare
The Splendor Falls by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
From In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Song of Myself, XI by Walt Whitman
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal by William Wordsworth
They flee from me by Thomas Wyatt

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 by Anonymous
Brahma by Ralph Waldo Emerson
From The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by Edward Fitzgerald
The World by George Herbert
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick
If-- by Rudyard Kipling
Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti
Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas
Go, lovely rose! by Edmund Waller
The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

Lord Randall by Anonymous
My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
anyone lived in a pretty how town by E. E. Cummings
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Ode on the death of a favorite cat by Thomas Gray
The Oxen by Thomas Hardy
La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats
The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear
Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson
An Apple Gathering by Christina Rossetti
The Woodspurge by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
All the world's a stage by William Shakespeare
Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
From Snow-Bound, 11:1-40, 116-154 by John Greenleaf Whittier

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
Stanzas by Emily Bronté
To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant
From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron
Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson
Mending Wall by Robert Frost
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendall Holmes
Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins
To Autumn by John Keats
On His Seventy-fifth Birthday by Walter Savage Landor
Snow-Flakes by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Shiloh by Herman Melville
The House on the Hill by Edwin Arlington Robinson
From Adonais, 49-52 by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith
Mnemosyne by Trumball Stickney
Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson
From In Memoriam by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Kraken by Lord Alfred Tennyson
A noiseless patient spider by Walt Whitman

Poetry in the Play

The Charge of the Light Brigade

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
  All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred!

Written in 1854 concerning the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. 

The Lady of Shallott

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

On either side the river lie 
Long fields of barley and of rye, 
That clothe the wold and meet the sky; 
And thro' the field the road runs by 
To many-tower'd Camelot; 
And up and down the people go, 
Gazing where the lilies blow 
Round an island there below, 
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver, 
Little breezes dusk and shiver 
Through the wave that runs for ever 
By the island in the river 
Flowing down to Camelot. 
Four grey walls, and four grey towers, 
Overlook a space of flowers, 
And the silent isle imbowers 
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd 
By slow horses; and unhail'd 
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot: 
But who hath seen her wave her hand? 
Or at the casement seen her stand? 
Or is she known in all the land, 
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early, 
In among the bearded barley 
Hear a song that echoes cheerly 
From the river winding clearly; 
Down to tower'd Camelot; 
And by the moon the reaper weary, 
Piling sheaves in uplands airy, 
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy 
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day 
A magic web with colours gay. 
She has heard a whisper say, 
A curse is on her if she stay 
To look down to Camelot. 
She knows not what the curse may be, 
And so she weaveth steadily, 
And little other care hath she, 
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear 
That hangs before her all the year, 
Shadows of the world appear. 
There she sees the highway near 
Winding down to Camelot; 
There the river eddy whirls, 
And there the surly village churls, 
And the red cloaks of market girls 
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, 
An abbot on an ambling pad, 
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad, 
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad 
Goes by to tower'd Camelot; 
And sometimes through the mirror blue 
The knights come riding two and two. 
She hath no loyal Knight and true, 
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights 
To weave the mirror's magic sights, 
For often through the silent nights 
A funeral, with plumes and lights 
And music, went to Camelot; 
Or when the Moon was overhead, 
Came two young lovers lately wed. 
"I am half sick of shadows," said 
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, 
He rode between the barley sheaves, 
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves, 
And flamed upon the brazen greaves 
Of bold Sir Lancelot. 
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd 
To a lady in his shield, 
That sparkled on the yellow field, 
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free, 
Like to some branch of stars we see 
Hung in the golden Galaxy. 
The bridle bells rang merrily 
As he rode down to Camelot: 
And from his blazon'd baldric slung 
A mighty silver bugle hung, 
And as he rode his armor rung 
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather 
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, 
The helmet and the helmet-feather 
Burn'd like one burning flame together, 
As he rode down to Camelot. 
As often thro' the purple night, 
Below the starry clusters bright, 
Some bearded meteor, burning bright, 
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; 
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode; 
From underneath his helmet flow'd 
His coal-black curls as on he rode, 
As he rode down to Camelot. 
From the bank and from the river 
He flashed into the crystal mirror, 
"Tirra lirra," by the river 
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom, 
She made three paces through the room, 
She saw the water-lily bloom, 
She saw the helmet and the plume, 
She look'd down to Camelot. 
Out flew the web and floated wide; 
The mirror crack'd from side to side; 
"The curse is come upon me," cried 
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining, 
The pale yellow woods were waning, 
The broad stream in his banks complaining. 
Heavily the low sky raining 
Over tower'd Camelot; 
Down she came and found a boat 
Beneath a willow left afloat, 
And around about the prow she wrote 
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse 
Like some bold seer in a trance, 
Seeing all his own mischance -- 
With a glassy countenance 
Did she look to Camelot. 
And at the closing of the day 
She loosed the chain, and down she lay; 
The broad stream bore her far away, 
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white 
That loosely flew to left and right -- 
The leaves upon her falling light -- 
Thro' the noises of the night, 
She floated down to Camelot: 
And as the boat-head wound along 
The willowy hills and fields among, 
They heard her singing her last song, 
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy, 
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly, 
Till her blood was frozen slowly, 
And her eyes were darkened wholly, 
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot. 
For ere she reach'd upon the tide 
The first house by the water-side, 
Singing in her song she died, 
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony, 
By garden-wall and gallery, 
A gleaming shape she floated by, 
Dead-pale between the houses high, 
Silent into Camelot. 
Out upon the wharfs they came, 
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame, 
And around the prow they read her name, 
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here? 
And in the lighted palace near 
Died the sound of royal cheer; 
And they crossed themselves for fear, 
All the Knights at Camelot; 
But Lancelot mused a little space 
He said, "She has a lovely face; 
God in his mercy lend her grace, 
The Lady of Shalott."

Written in 1833, it is a Victorian ballad poem, loosely based on the Arthurian legend of Elaine of Astolat.